The Matchup: Lemont at Riverside-Brookfield, 7 p.m. Shuey Stadium
Records: RB (0-1); Lemont (0-1)
Last season’s score: Lemont 42, Riverside-Brookfield 0
RB returns home: The Bulldogs and Indians both enter tonight’s nonconference game coming off a season-opening loss. After two postponements due to lightning and inclement weather, RB fell to host St. Francis last Sunday 35-9 in Week 1 action. The Bulldogs, who lost to the Spartans 57-12 in 2012, showed signs of progress against the highly regarded Spartans, particularly with a spirited defensive effort. Justin Agne blocked a punt that rolled out of the end zone of for a safety and the Bulldogs’ first points of the season. Linebackers Agne, Jordan Petronella and Brian Kulaga set a hard-hitting tone defensively for RB, along with defensive linemen Dan McGee and John Husir who each had sack. On offense, Adolfo Linares rushed for 50 yards on 11 carries and tight end Christian Verdin hauled in four catches. Quarterback Jack VandeMerkt tossed a 40-yard touchdown pass to Antone Dixon, who made a great catch, for the Bulldogs’ lone touchdown against St. Francis.
The Lowdown on Lemont: The Indians lost 29-13 to Plainfield South last week, the Indians’ first loss in a season opener since 2006. Five turnovers and over 100 yards in penalties served as the primary culprits for the Indians’ undoing against Plainfield South.
Quarterback Joe Bailey, junior running back Jim Kepouros and 6-foot-3, 260-pound right tackle Connor Melvin lead the Indians offensively. The Indians lost several key starters to graduation notably offensive lineman Ethan Pocic, now at LSU. Linebackers Frank Pignone and Drew Hayes along with defensive lineman Andrew Miller and cornerback Anthony Berta are the Lemont leaders on defense.
Tradition of Excellence: Over the past decade, Lemont has been one of the premier football programs in the state. Last year, the Indians finished 11-2 and lost 28-27 to Crete-Monee in the Class 6A state semifinals. Under head coach Eric Michaelsen, the Indians have amassed a 95-17 record over the past nine seasons, highlighted by state runner-up finishes in 2007 and 2008 and semifinal appearances the past two years.
Keys to the game: RB, which had two interceptions and two fumbles last week, will need to cut down on turnovers against Lemont. With several newcomers on offense, the Bulldogs struggled to establish any continuity against St. Francis. Head coach Brendan Curtin, who emphasizes ball security as one of the keys to offensive success, will look for a better performance from the Bulldogs tonight. On both side of the ball, the Bulldogs are also blessed with an abundance of speed which could serve them well against Lemont.
The Indians employ a smash-mouth style of football with limited turnovers on offense, complemented by a similarly physical approach on defense. Lemont will look to control the clock and wear down the Bulldogs, who have several two-way players.
Tonight’s tilt against the Indians represents the Bulldogs’ lone home game over the first five this season. It’s also the Bulldogs’ Senior Night, which coupled with a big home crowd, should provide additional motivation for RB.